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lighters without making a noise. So far as was
known there were no shore batteries to take into
account, but the German trenches about twenty-five
3'ards from the lighters were manned, and at that
range it was reasonable to suppose that a heavy
rifle-fire might do considerable damage. Our men
were armed with nothing but revolvers, as it was
desirable that they should be encumbered as little
as possible. The ships of the Navy and the Nigeria
Marine flotilla were lying about fourteen miles from
Victoria. Two vessels of the latter — the steam-
launch Vampire and the tug Walrus — provided with
tow-ropes, etc., took the men inshore, while the
gunboat II.M.S. Dwarf accompanied them. Com-
mander Strong taking charge of the expedition.
Of course all lights were extinguished, and as they
approached the lighters the men were strictly
enjoined to keep silence. In spite of all precautions,
however, it seemed almost inconceivable that the
Germans in their trenches could be unaware of the
approach of the three vessels. Still, there was no
indication that tlicy had been detected, so the men
silently boarded the lighters, slipped the mooring
chains, and attached the tow-ropes from the
Vampire and the Walrus. They expected every



INCIDENTS OF EARLIER OPERATIONS 73

moment to hear the sliarp erack of a dozen rifles,
followed by a shower of bullets, but it never came.
They got back into the two boats, and in a few
minutes the party was well under way with the
prizes in tow. In triumph they brought them back
to the anchorage — a very useful addition to the flotilla.

The silence of the German rifles remained a mystery
until the oflicer commanding the detachment became
one of our prisoners of war, and told us his version
of the story. From his trench he saw three vessels
off the pier, and several large boats beside them,
which seemed to be filled with troops. The large
boats were of course the German lighters, which had
been there for several days, but, being a soldier and
not a sailor, he had forgotten about the lighters, and
it never occurred to him that they could be any-
thing else than British boats with British troops in
them. " They are going to land," he said to him-
self, " and will try to rush the trenches." He
ordered his men to reserve their fire until they saw
the first man leave the boats, and then they were to
shoot them down like ninepins. When he saw the
three vessels and the large boats retire into the
darkness, he said, " They have thought better of it ;
they will not try again to-night." In the morning
one of his men pointed out the absence of the lighters.
" The lighters ? " he said. '' ^¥hat ! the lighters !
Himmel! they have stolen the lighters,"

The second incident reminds one of the old sea
duels when two ships lay alongside each other, and
hammered away at a range so close that the gunners
had their hair singed by the flames of the enemy's
guns. In these days of modern gunnery such an
engagement as this cannot last more than a few
minutes, but, while it does last, enough excitement
is crowded into those few minutes to satisfy most men
for a lifetime.

H.M.S. Dwarf was exploring Bimbia Creek, to



74 THE NAVY IN THE CAJMEROONS

find out whether the enemy had any defences along
its banks, and generally to gain information about
the possibilities of the creek as an alternative entrance
to the Cameroon River. On either side were thick
mangrove swamps, through which the creek pursued
a tortuous course with many sharp bends. It was
not a particularly pleasant creek, for a mangrove
swamp has little to recommend it from the aesthetic
or any other point of view. The peculiarity of the
mangrove tree is that it is not content with the
roots beneath its stem, but keeps on dropping from
its boughs long tentacles, which strike the soil and
so become subsidiary roots. A cluster of these trees
presents a thicket as impenetrable as any that
Nature has devised. Another peculiarity of the
tree is that it will grow nearer to the seashore
than most other forms of vegetation ; in fact the
roots seem to be perched on top of the sand, and to
find sustenance in such refuse as the sea washes up
to them. At low tide they look like a mighty
cluster of snakes burying their noses in the slime,
which the receding tide cannot suck away from
them, because of the network they form to retain
it. Beneath these roots the crabs and shell-fish
cluster, while the branches of the trees afford a home
for swarms of voracious mosquitoes.

Through such a swamp as this the Bimbia Creek
winds its way, and on ICth September the Dwarf
anchored for the night about six miles up the creek.
On a large-scale map it can be seen that at this
point the creek bifurcates, a northern channel coming
down from the village of Tiko, and another channel
winding towards the Cameroon River. Near this
junction the Dwarf lay at anchor, and, as the man-
grove trees made it impossible to see round the next
bend, and as there were known to be enemy craft
prowling about the creeks, she darkened ship and
her men went to action stations.



INCIDENTS OF EARLIER OPERATIONS 75

It was a dark night, and in that thick jungle it
was impossible to sec more than a few yards ahead.
The officers had finished dinner, and were smoking
vigorously to keep off the mosquitoes, when it was
reported to the Captain that a light was coming
round the bend a little more than a hundred yards
away. Behind the light there loomed the shape of
a fairly large ship, which seemed to be coming from
the direction of Tiko at a good speed. Commander
Strong at once gave the orders to slip the cable, get
under way, and open fire. It was almost point-
blank range, when the for'ard 4-inch gun and two
of the 12-pounders let fly.

Of what happened during the next two or three
minutes it is difficult to convey any adequate idea
through the medium of cold print. The general
impression left on the mind was of a sudden stream of
light, as the Dwarf's searchlight was switched on,
of the ping of a new army of mosquitoes attracted by
the light, of the crash of many guns, of a big black
ship coming full tilt at the Dwarf down the stream
of light, of a mighty crash when the collision came,
and of a mighty blaze from stem to stern of the big
black ship. The Dwarf had been lying athwart
the creek, and though she got under way at once,
she had no time to avoid the blow. The Nachtigal
struck her abreast of her funnel, and in so doing got
dragged round, so that the two ships lay alongside
each other. And all the time the 4-inch and 12-
pounder guns of the Dwarf were blazing away for
dear life.

The Nachtigal had a gun in her bows, but before
she reached the Dwarf both the gun and its crew
had been blown over the side into the water by a
salvo from the Dwarf. I do not know what other
guns the German ship had, but at all events they
had no chance of coming into action, for within a
moment after the collision the ship burst into flames



76 THE NAVY IN THE CAMEROONS

along her whole length. The Dwarf hastened to
extricate herself from the unwelcome embrace,
steaming towards the south bank, crossing the bows
of the Nachtigal, and turning right round to port
until she ran aground on the north bank. The
burning ship drifted to the south bank, where she
soon blew up. Of her crew the captain and thirteen
ratings (three Europeans) were rescued and taken
prisoners. All of them were wounded. The rest of
the ship's company, consisting of eight Germans and
twenty- five natives, had been killed.

The Dwarf came off with no casualties at all,
but she had a large hole in her side, and one of her
compartments was filled with water. She was
able, however, to return to the base, and within a
week the engine-room staff of the Cumberland had
patched her up so satisfactorily that she could
resume her duties.

The shape of the hole made by the Nachtigal's
stem suggested that a ram with a round head had
been fitted to her, and that the whole episode had
been premeditated. It seems more probable, how-
ever, that the ship was on her way from Tiko into
the Cameroon River, and so to Duala, and was
unaware of the presence of the Dwarf in Bimbia
Creek, until she got round the bend, and the Dwarf
opened fire. Escape was impossible, and the fore-
most gun having been blown over the side, ramming
was the only method of offence left. The Captain
must have realised that his vessel was doomed to
destruction in any case, and pluckily resolved to
take a course which gave him a chance of doing some
damage to the enemy. This view is borne out by
an entry in the diary of Lieutenant Nathnagel, the
officer left at Duala to surrender tlie town after the
(icrman troops had evacuated it. The diarist is a
soldier, wlio is often rather vague about naval matters,
but his diary is interesting as a sidelight on the early



INCIDENTS OF EARLIER OPERATIONS 77

operations in the Cameroons. Here are the entries
relating to the Naciitigal.

" In the evening just after 9 p.m. there is
distant gunfire, and news comes from Victoria
that the Dwarf is engaged with the Nachtigal
two kilometres from Tiko. At 10 p.m. a message
comes from the Dwarf — ' Have been rammed
by a steamer and have put my ship aground.'
Unfortunately he completed the news later as
follows — ' Only one compartment full ; ship in
order ; hope to come off at daylight.' The
Nachtigal seems to be lost, and the ramming
adopted as a last resource. The Dwarf is again
afloat."

The above messages from the Dwarf were made en
clair and intercepted by the wireless station at Duala.
After the first one some German wag sent a sarcastic
message to the Senior Naval Officer ofiering the loan of
a carpenter, but before an appropriate reply could be
sent the second message came through, and obviated
the necessity of making any rejoinder.

Two days later, on 18th September, the diary
records :

" The Nachtigal is lost. Deck hands are
reported prisoners ; engine-room staff killed by
boiler exploding."

While these two incidents — the cutting-out of the
lighters and the engagement in the creek — bring
back to us the naval warfare of a hundred years ago,
there was a third incident which savours of the old
days when torpedoes were in their infancy, and the
outrigger torpedo was seriously regarded as a weapon
of war. The inventor of a new design in outrigger



78 THE NAVY IN THE CAMEROONS

torpedoes was a German missionary at Duala, and
though his contrivance has the demerit of being a
good deal more comphcated than the old scheme of a
bomb stuck on the end of a pole which was balanced
on a swivel, it was at all events ingenious. He
rigged two upright poles, one on either side of a
motor-boat, and secured them in position by means
of struts athwart the boat. To each pole he at-
tached a hydrogen gas-cylinder (such as is used for
making soda-water) which was filled with dynamite.
The ends of these cylinders projected beyond the
boat, and, though the cylinders were above water
when the l3oat was under way, they were lowered to
the requisite depth below the surface by sliding
brackets on the upright poles. In the old outrigger
torpedo the bomb was lowered beneath the water
by simply raising the near end of the pole to which
it was attached, just as the blade of an oar is dipped
in the water by raising the handle. Possibly the
missionary had never beard of the old outrigger
torpedo, for it is difficult to see why he should have
considered liis elaborate contrivance an improvement
on it.

Two boats were fitted up, each with a pair of
torpedoes. The story of their fortunes is told in
Lieutenant Nathnagel's diary, but not with absolute
accuracy, so I must take the liberty of correcting him
when he goes wrong. Let me first explain that the
Germans had sunk a whole row of ships across the
fairway of the Cameroon River to obstruct the
passage, that the Navy was busily engaged in making
a channel through this obstruction with the aid of
explosives, and that the Dwarf was anchored close
by at night to prevent the enemy from sinking any
more ships there, or interfering witli the work in
hand. The Germans decided tliat the Dwarf
should be the iirst victim of the missionary's great
invention. An abortive attempt was made on



INCIDENTS OF EARLIER OPERATIONS 79

11th September, and here is what the diary says about
it:

" llih September. — To-night a launch with a
mine built in under her keel is to be let loose
upon the Dwarf. The engineer w^ho will have
to remain on board almost until the last will
be as good as lost, but none the less three
brave men have volunteered for the fatal
journey."

" 12//? Seyiemhcr. — The night was bright moon-
light, and the torpedoes could not get near
enough. At 8 o'clock the Dwarf steamed
away."

As a matter of fact, the Ivy, a vessel belonging to
the Nigeria Marine, was then doing duty as guard-
ship at the obstruction, and for some reason or other
the Germans did not consider her worthy of receiving
the attentions of their torpedo-boat. On 13th Sep-
tember the Dwarf relieved the Ivy, and another
attempt was made that night to torpedo her. On
14th September the diary says, " Dwarf working at
the barrier. The torpedo-boats cannot get near
enough ; they are always observed too soon and
fired upon."

But on IGth September Lieutenant Nathnagel
records that an attack has actually been made at last.

" The first torpedo attack on the Dwarf has
unfortunately failed. The man in charge lost
his head, and jumped out with the rudder
wrongly lashed. In consequence the boat ran
round in circles with the torpedo set, and
endangered the other boat, which had to retreat,
and in the meantime the torpedo-man was
drowned. The torpedo exploded uselessly in
the mangroves."



80 THE NAVY IN THE CAMEROONS

As to the result of the attempt, and as to the
cause of the failure, the diarist is correct, but his
details are lamentably inaccurate. First of all, the
rudder was not lashed, but the tiller was fixed by
means of an iron pin, and the man in the boat became
so much rattled when the Dwarf opened fire that,
instead of fixing it amidships, he fixed it hard a-port,
so that the boat swung to starboard and ran on
the mud. The other boat did not retreat because of
the vagaries of its companion, but because of the
Dwarf's fire. It is not clear whether this other
boat was the second torpedo boat, or merely a boat
to pick up the man who ran the first boat. Its
intention may possibly have been to divert the
Dwarf's attention from the first boat, for it had
come downstream below the Dwarf, and then turned
to approach her from the seaward side, at the same
time signalling with a lantern. This boat escaped
in the darkness. The man was not drowned, as
reported by the diarist, nor did the torpedoes explode.
The man was found next morning seated on a spar
of one of the sunken ships, and clad in nothing but
a pair of trousers. He was a lanky, miserable fellow,
and very much frightened when he was taken
prisoner ; but a cup of hot cocoa soon restored him.
The torpedoes were recovered intact, and brought
aboard the Dwarf, where they were duly admired ;
but Commander Strong did not care for them as ship's
pets, so they were eventually buried.

Of the other torpedo-boat the diary says :

" 20/^ Se'ptemher. — The second torpedo-boat
has been out since yesterday evening. We hope
it has not been blown up by its own torpedo.
Anyhow, the Dwarf has not been blown up.

" 2\st September. — Till now no news of the
torpedo.

" 22nd Septejnber. — Some of the native crew



INCIDENTS OF EARLIER OPERATIONS 81

of the torpedo-boat have returned, and report
that the boat was attacked from in front and
behind by launches ; the benzine tank caught
fire, and the crew then surrendered. A thousand
pities, but still better than if it had been use-
lessly blown in the air."

Lieutenant Nathnagel is evidently a born optimist,
for he finds consolation in the fact that the boat has
fallen intact into the enemy's hands, so that it may
be of some use after all. He omits to mention that
the great inventor was captured at the same time,
and was retained as a prisoner in spite of the plea
that his missionary work in the Cameroons was
likely to suffer by his absence. The launches he
refers to were ship's boats belonging to H.M.S. Cum-
berland.

There are two other incidents in the early opera-
tions which are worthy of mention ; but both of
them are essentially modern in their character,
and both of them offer an insight into the peculiar
psychology of the German. The first occiured on
25th September, when a channel through the obstruc-
tion had been completed, and H.M.S. Challenger,
having reduced her draught by the removal of heavy
stores, passed up the river to within range of the
town of Duala. Transports had arrived bringing
British and French troops, and preparations were
being made to supplement a frontal attack on the
town by sending a detachment of troops up the
Dibamba River, to cut off the enemy's line of retreat
to the eastward.

The Challenger anchored at Bwape Sand just
short of a mine-field, and a party was sent ashore
under the white flag to convey to the governor of
Duala a demand for the surrender of the town. An
interval of two hours was allowed to enable the
governor to frame his reply, and in the meantime the

6



82 THE NAVY IN THE CAMEROONS

Challenger and all the vessels in company with
her flew the white flag. The party reached Duala
and handed the message to the governor, and then
followed the interval of waiting. But it was by
no means a dull, uneventful interval. While the
governor was drawing up one of those models of
evasiveness for which Germans seem to have a
special aptitude, the Commandant and his officers
were getting very busy. It would seem to be one of
the axioms of German military tactics that, when the
enemy hoists the white flag, an exceptionally favour-
able opportunity is offered for attacking him. In
this case, however, the methods of attack were
severely limited, for it is obviously futile to send a
body of infantry or cavalry to attack an armoured
cruiser, and an artillery attack, to be effective, needed
guns of larger calibre than any the Germans had
available. There was, however, one method of attack,
which had a very fair chance of success at a time of
truce, when it might be supposed that the enemy's
vigilance would be relaxed— the floating mine. On
the swift current the Germans released a large number
of floating mines, and waited expectantly.

Fortunately for the Challenger the vigilance of
her look-out had not been relaxed. Ihe mines were
seen approaching the ship, fire was opened On them
with rifles and maxims, and all of them were
exploded before they came near enough to do any
damage. The chagrin of the Germans at the failure
of their tactics was expressed in the version of the
story which they sent by wireless to Germany. " The
British, having hoisted the flag of truce, opened fire
with rifles and machine-guns " — a perfectly accurate
statement, only they forgot to mention the floating
mines.

Two days later, when tiiey saw that the forces
confronting them were too formidable for them, and
that their line of retreat was in daiigcr, they sur-



INCIDENTS OF EARLIER OPERATIONS 83

rendered the town of Duala and the suburb of
Bonaberi across the river. The final entry in Lieu-
tenant Nathnagel's diary reads :

" 26th September. — The Commandant goes to
Edea. A slow bombardment ; various buildings
destroyed, but no loss of life. At noon ne^ys
comes that large bodies of troops arc landing,
and advancing from Gori, Pitti, and Japoma.^
I am now Commandant of Duala.

" 27th September. — Out at 5 a.m. under full
protection as the bombardment may be expected
at once. At 7.30 instructions from Captain
Haedicke that the companies are to retire. I
am still keeping up telephonic communication
with the Commander, and receive the definite
order to give up the useless opposition, march
off the coloured troops with arms, make all war
material useless, and hoist the white flag."

After the capture of Duala and the neighbouring
country, one of the problems confronting the Allies
was the administration of the cocoa plantations.
The German overseers, who controlled the native
labourers, pointed out that the workers would not
continue their work without supervision, and, as the
Allied forces had no one available at the time to
take the place of these overseers, it was decided to
place them under parole and let them carry on. If
there were any misgivings as to the value of a Ger-
man's parole, it was not long before they found
ample justification. These overseers promptly en-
listed in the German secret service, and sent all the
useful information they could to the German forces
up-country. Very soon it became apparent that
these men were an infernal nuisance, and would con-
tinue to be so until they were interned.

1 Pronounce Yapooma.



84 THE NAVY IN THE CAMEROONS

With a view to putting a check upon their activi-
ties, surprise visits were paid to the cocoa farms, and
occasionally the European staff were brought off to
the Senior Naval Officer's ship to be examined. The
farm buildings were searched for firearms, etc. but
the Germans contrived somehow or other to keep
some of their rifles securely hidden. To convey
information to one's friends in spite of a solemn
promise not to do so is one thing ; to engage in active
operations of hostility in contravention of a pledge
to which one owes one's liberty, is another thing.
Both are not only permissible, but even praiseworthy,
according to the German code of morals. It would
seem, however, as if Nemesis, with righteous indig-
nation, was lying in wait for these German traders.

A landing party had been sent ashore to one of
the cocoa farms, where they found a small German
staff, some papers which, on translation, might
prove incriminating, and some money. They brought
the party aboard with the papers and the money,
and they also brought off from the shore a boat
belonging to the German traders. The money and
the papers were retained, and a formal receipt was
handed to the farm manager. The Germans were
then sent back in their own boat, unaccompanied.
By this time night had fallen, and it was quite dark.
From the ship they could hear the splash of the
oars as the boat approached the river-bank, when
suddenly the sound of rifle-shots rang out through
the darkness, and quite a heavy fusillade was opened
upon the unfortunate Germans in the boat. The
explanation was that some of their compatriots,
having succeeded in retaining their rifles, thought
that a splendid opportunity liad come to strike a
blow for the Fatherland. They saw a boat pull away
from a British man-of-war, and naturally assumed
that it was matuicd by lirifi.sh sailors. Without a
thought for their parole they hid behind some busjies^



INCIDENTS OF EARLIER OPERATIONS 85

and, as soon as the boat reached the bank, they let
drive. The result was that the number of Germans in
the world was reduced by two, and Nemesis was
satisfied.



CHAPTER VII

AMPHIBIOUS OPERATIONS

I HAVE said that at the opening of the Cameroons
campaign the operations were entirely naval, the
military forces not appearing on the scene until just
before the surrender of Duala. I am referring, of
course, to the western side of the colony, which
is bordered by the sea. In the north-east there
were military operations as early as August 1914,
culminating in the unfortunate disaster at Garua,
when Colonel Maclear, and four other officers were
killed, and about 40 per cent, of our native troops
were lost. After this catastrophe the operations
from the Nigerian border of the Cameroons were
suspended for over nine months, and it was not until
June 1915 that a second attack was made on Garua.
This was completely successful, and the town was
surrendered, together with a considerable number
of prisoners and a big haul of guns and ammunition.
It is noteworthy that, in achieving this result, our
military forces had the assistance of a naval gun,
transported by Lieutenant Louis H. Hamilton and
five seamen over narrow, rough roads through hun-
dreds of miles of bushland. This gun and a small
French howitzer had an instantaneous effect upon
the German native troops, who were unaccustomed
to guns of that calibre, and soon got out of hand and
became mutinous. Their officers then realised that
the game was up, and Garua was surrendered without
a struggle.


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